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Meet Rachna Nath of ACP-Erie in Chandler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachna Nath.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey started in US in 2003, when I moved to the United States from India. At that time, I was looking for a job by applying for 10-15 positions a day and still nothing happened for almost a year. I had a master’s degree in Entomology (Insect Science) from Guwahati University, India but couldn’t find a job here even after I reduced my qualifications to a Bachelor’s degree. One day, I decided to start volunteering to get to know people around me. At that time, my husband was working in Downtown Phoenix so I decided to Volunteer at the “St Luke’s Medical Hospital”. That when I learnt a lot about the working of a hospital from the surgical waiting room to the Emergency unit to working on the Console in the front office.

During those days, I would always be my cheerful self, always wishing ” Good morning ” to everyone I see and I kept track of some familiar faces that I used to see every day One day, around three months into the volunteering, one of the familiar ladies whom I said ” HI” too every day came up to me and asked me ” Do you want a Job?” I thought I had heard her wrong and told her “But I did not apply for any job” and in a matter of 3 weeks, I was cleaning cafeteria tables and floor as a Cashier in the Cafeteria. I loved the job as I got to learn about the packing of lunches for the patients and also got to work as a Cashier. The next few months was smooth sailing, during the cafeteria hours that I had a break, I worked as a volunteer all around the hospital, Then in 2004, July, I got hired as an Adjunct Faculty at the Mesa Community College. Since that day till 2013, I continued to teach at different community colleges from Phoenix College, Estrella mountain community College to finally Chandler Gilbert Community College.

During that time, I had my daughter and my son and I was happy babysitting them in the morning and going to teach in the evenings. Life was finally settling down. Then in 2012, I got an offer to work at USDA as a Laboratory technician and ended up working with Dr. Colin Brent on Lygus bugs. It was extremely fun to find myself in a research setting once more. I always to pursue my PhD and I still remember the day when Dr. Brent took me to ASU on a tour of the Social Insect Research Group (SIRG). I will never forget that day. That was a beginning of a new chapter in my life. I started to Volunteer at the Honey Bee Lab at ASU Polytechnique under Dr. Osman Kaftanoglu. Whatever minimal I know about bee keeping, is because of his patience with me. I worked tirelessly at the Honeybee lab for almost a year and then finally got accepted into a PhD program in 2014 August. I was extremely happy that I came back to school after 13 years of my first Master’s. But after two years of the program unfortunately my professor decided to move out of ASU. I remember that day when I could see my dreams of becoming a Doctorate come crushing down. I remember it was 4.23pm on a Tuesday afternoon when I changed my PhD program to a second masters. I was devastated. I went into depression but at the same time my father in law passed away and I had to pick up my pieces of my heart and look for better good of the kids. Finally, I joined ACP-Erie in 2017 and something in me changed then. One day I happen to visit ACP-Erie for a science fair and meet my dear friend and well wisher Mrs. Cristi Sims, who is a science teacher at the same school. She told me of an opening and in a matter of 6 months, I was working as a high school science teacher at ACP-Erie. Since July of 2017 to this day, I continue to flourish with these exceptionally talent high schools and I work towards making their dream come true in the field of research.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been a very tough journey. As a first-generation Indian in the United States, I had to find my way through trying to stay occupied and take care of my kids to finding a balance in pursuing my career. I waited for thirteen years between my first masters and getting back to Grad school again at ASU. As destiny would have it, I was forced to leave my PhD work and start teaching at ACP- Erie. Only when I started to teach the 9th graders that I realized that I can make a change in their lives by introducing to research and critical thinking process early in life. That’s when I found my true purpose in life. I love to see students look beyond their grades and think about giving back to the community by exploring their creative and innovative spirits as early as 9th grade.

ACP-Erie – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am the STEM coordinator and Science teacher a ACP Erie. I also am a researcher and grant writer teaching the students to write and apply for grants early in love to fund their won research.

I am proud of the fact that my students in the last two years have already gotten a lot of publicity for the work they are doing. From our Arizona Senator tweeting about the students project to Chandler Innovations inviting the students for a Junior tract for Innovations, the last two years one group of student ideas have been invited to be showcased at the Chandler Expo, one group of students have been invited to write a 50K grant by the state Unran development board and the list goes on. We also received a 5k grant from Arizona Recycling coalition for Styrofoam recycling within our school.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success for me is to see my students successful and motivated to give back to the community. If in their future years, they remember me and think about me even once in a good way, I will think of myself as a successful teacher.

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